Can enterprise architects help lean experts?

I was reading a blog from BiZZdesign by Marc Lankhorst & Peter Matthijssen, and it got me thinking … clearly a good blog.

The core message in the blog is that lean experts should involve enterprise architects (people who have an overview of the whole operating model … and have probably developed a ten page ‘capability reference model’).

[If you don’t know what a capability reference model is don’t panic: it is just a list of capabilities needed to make the organisation work structured into levels: there might be 10 capabilities at the highest level, 50 or 100 at the next level, and so on.  Some capability maps have five or six levels.   The idea is that an enterprise architect can use this map to identify where capabilities need to connect and link together and where there may be duplication.]

What intrigued me was the idea that the lean expert should involve the enterprise architect in order to make sure that the lean improvements were not sub-optimal: succeeding in one place at a cost to the total organisation.   On the face of it this makes good sense.

But, from a different perspective, it makes less sense.  Surely the lean expert will be using a stakeholder model to understand all the stakeholders that are affected by the process under investigation.  In fact the lean expert will need to talk to these stakeholder to understand them, and maybe even to understand what their stakeholders want from them.  So the lean expert should be well enough connected without “help” from the enterprise architect.    As I understand it, one of the principles of good lean analysis is a focus on the ultimate customer.

So what help can enterprise architects give?  The authors suggest that the enterprise architect can help with SIPOC analysis (supplier, input, process, output, customer).  But, I think this is already a core part of lean analysis.

Offer lean experts previous analysis done by the enterprise architect as input to their work is another suggestion.  I can imagine that this might save some time, but, as the authors point out, the analysis is often out of date and needs to be redone anyway.

Help develop better solutions is a third suggestion.  Here I can imagine that the enterprise architect with a broader view of the whole system will be likely to have some ideas that do not come so easily into the mind of the lean expert.

Share good practices from other parts of the organisation is a fourth suggestion.  I can see the logic here as well.  But for both of these last two points, I can imagine that the lean expert is likely to be working at a level of detail that is much lower than the enterprise architect normally works (say level 5 or 6 of the capability map), hence the enterprise architect may have little to contribute.

So where does this leave me?  It made me wonder about the role of enterprise architects, and also wonder whether the solution might be to educate lean experts in the broader operating model and capability map, so that they are more aware of wider implications and where to look for good practices.  Maybe the enterprise architect is the designer of transformations and the lean expert is the designer of incremental improvements … and they do not need to work together as suggested by the article.  The enterprise architect documents and redesigns the total operating model.   The lean expert promotes continuous improvement in processes within an operating model.

Of course this thinking may be influence by my self interest.  It implies that both need to come on my course Designing Operating Models!


About Andrew Campbell

Ashridge Executive Education Focus on strategy and organisation Almost retired!
This entry was posted in Enterprise architects and operating models, Lean, Op Excellence and Op Model and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Can enterprise architects help lean experts?

  1. Marc Lankhorst says:

    Thanks for your kind words about our blog. Operating models are indeed a useful notion to take business strategy to enterprise architecture (like e.g. business capability maps).

    Operating models themselves are important EA artifacts and they provide constraints for process development since they address process standardization and integration. So EA and process improvement experts do share a common ground.

    I don’t agree with you on the issue of stakeholder analysis, though: local improvements by Lean experts need to be put in context and this is not merely a matter of addressing the “ultimate customer”. There are more stakeholders than just this customer who might have legitimate interests as well. This is precisely where you need to be aware of potential side-effects of local improvements and where EA may contribute. Think e.g. of shareholders, auditors, employees, suppliers, etc. Unless you consider them all “ultimate customers” (which would just be a synonym for stakeholder), their scope may be a lot larger than that of an individual process.

  2. andrew campbell says:

    Mark, I have just been listening to your excellent webinar on lean and EA. Thank you for that. It adds a good deal to your blog. We clearly need both EA and Lean experts. But the issue is how much they really need to work together.

    Try this analogy. The EA is like the map maker for the street map of London. Th Lean expert is like the taxi driver looking for the best route. If the EA has good artifacts, the Lean expert does not need to work that closely with him or her. But, unlike the map of London, the operating map changes as managers and Lean experts find short cuts. So the EA does need to understand what the Lean expert is doing. So the relationship is a bit one sided.

    Anyway – great discussion. I was not so convinced, as suggested in your presentation, that we need to Lean EA – seemed to me like trying to Lean the work of an artist or designer.

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